Sweden has adopted the American tradition of Valentine’s Day and the procedures are very much the same; sending cards, chocolate or flowers to your loved one. If chocolate on the 14th is a new tradition in Sweden, an older tradition to keep fat, warm and happy in the Swedish February climate is the Fettisdagen.
Fettisdagen literally means the Fatty Tuesday and occurs on the last day before the Christian fast, the day after Blue Monday and before Ash Wednesday. This last day before the fast, and traditionally only this day, gave rise to the tradition of eating Semlor, also called fasting buns or fattyday buns. Since these buns are made out of wheat flour, the day was also called the White Tuesday. The Semla is made out of a wheat flour bun, the inside carved out and mixed with marzipan and water then topped with whipped cream, the top part of the bun placed as a hat and then icing sugar on the very top. This fat bun was a symbol of the food and joy that one had to give up during the fast and also a last chance to guzzle. The traditional or old fashion way of eating a Semla is to eat it in a bowl with hot milk and cinnamon; this is then called a hetvägg, a hot wall. Because of its popularity, the bakeries tend to serve the Semla from January to March and not only on the Fettisdagen. The Semla Academy also appoints the best Semla of the year comparing taste, looks and price. In order to be called a Semla are the following criteria:
• One must be able to use the top/hat of the Semla as a spade
• There has to be cardamom in the dough
• The marzipan has to be real
• The cream has to be whipped so that it turns out fluffy
• There has to be icing sugar on top
It is said that the Swedish king Adolf Fredrik died 12th of February 1771 after ending his gargantuan meal of smoked herring, Russian caviar, lobster, sourkraut, boiled meat with turnip with a Semla in milk along with a bottle of Champagne. The king’s body could not cope with all this, he got dizzy, had a seizure and died. Do not let this discourage you from making your own Semla, just do not eat smoked herring and lobster right before you try it.